08/28/11 — Southern Wayne district head honored for work

View Archive

Southern Wayne district head honored for work

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2011 1:50 AM

Some believe the Southern Wayne water district has the best tasting water in the county.

Mike Garris, superintendent, operator responsible in charge of the sanitary water district, says he hears the sentiment often.

"I have had a lot of customers come from other areas and that's what they tell me," he said.

With 6,280 customers and "steadily growing," Garris has worked in the district for 15 years, nearly half of them as superintendent.

Last year the district received the spirit award from the N.C. Rural Water Association and recently earned the J.A. Younts Award for dedicated service.

"We collect water samples, make sure all water is safe for the public, constantly collect water, run tests, send samples to the state," Garris said. "Last year we probably spent like around $30,000 just in testing the water, making sure it was safe for anybody. We also work with the fire departments testing their hydrants."

Southern Wayne is unique in being the only water system in the county that's fire-rated, he noted.

"We built this system for fire protection for the community -- ask (departments) what's the farthest you can stretch a fire hose," he explained. "We have a fire hydrant every 800 feet.

"We also run a higher water pressure than anyone in the county. When we run water lines out in rural areas, we look for areas of future growth, so we have already got our infrastructure in place."

Water districts operate under guidelines handed down by both the state General Assembly and the Environmental Protection Agency, Garris said.

"We try to go above and beyond what they dictate," he said, pointing out, "The regulations are killing us -- when it first started here it was minimal paperwork. The paperwork has gone up five-fold, water testing has gone up."

For his staff of four -- including himself, there are two in the field, two in the office -- it's a time-consuming process. Water samples are collected every day throughout the year.

"We have to constantly monitor it because of the weather changes and temperature," Garris said. "We're constantly monitoring for the chlorine (and bacteria like E. coli)."

He attributes the recent award recognitions to the water district's board of directors, a "more proactive" group that is very interested in working with the surrounding community.